Please Lord, I need your strength…this was the daily cry of my heart. Lord, surely, our 30+ years of marriage could not be over…in a bad dream perhaps, but surely, not for real. Just a little longer, I pleaded. With your help, Lord, I can handle this pain of betrayal…after all, was this not the "husband of my youth". The only man I had ever loved or made love to? What about our grown children and beautiful grandchildren and all our plans for retirement and travel? Lord, let this be the day he chooses to honestly recognize and submit his sexual addiction. Let this be the day he turns to you and other men for help and a future free of this terrible bondage!
I grew up in the church and "cut my teeth" on the back of a church pew. One of the very first Bible verses I memorized was "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." I believed those words with all my heart, and I carried them with me into adulthood. As I walked that church isle on my wedding day, those words were tucked tightly away in my heart, giving me the faith to believe that with Christ's help, we would have a good life together. On that day, so many years ago, I believed I was walking into a Christian marriage and the future that went with it. I knew that some Christians had problems, but after all, I was marrying my pastor's son, so what could possibly be missing? What more could a girl want or do?
Unfortunately, my naiveté had not prepared me for the long years that lay ahead. No one had told me about sexual addiction and it's entrapment, and the heartache and devastation it creates in the lives it touches. No one had prepared me for the destructive toll it would take in my life, and how it would ultimately destroy my marriage. This is my story, and the story of my marriage. But more than that, it is the story about how I finally recognized and learned that I can "do all things through Christ" who gives me strength!
Over thirty years ago, as my young husband-to-be and I prepared for our wedding, we went for premarital counseling. There, we were warned of a "danger" that lay ahead. You see, the personality tests the counselor gave us revealed that deep within, my husband felt a great deal of anger towards women.
"Hank," our counselor said insistently, "you must receive individual counseling before I can counsel you together as a couple. You must take care of this problem before I can help you prepare for marriage."
But Hank refused, insisting that he was all right-there was no problem-and that the counselor was wrong. The counselor pressed harder.
"Listen," he warned, "I've seen this before. You will eventually 'project' your anger onto Rachel." Yet Hank held his ground, and I naively believed that our love could handle anything. Besides, I didn't see any problem with anger in Hank's behavior. Several months later we were married,.
It didn't take long for the counselor's words to begin ringing in my ears. I began to suspect that he had been right, when I started to notice "mood swings" in Hank shortly after we were married. Soon, I felt like I couldn't be sure how-or who-he would be when he walked in the door. He seemed always "on edge" and when we tried to discuss even the smallest matter, his response to me was usually, "You are just like my mother!" I very quickly learned not to express my thoughts in order to have a peaceful home.
I was brought up in a home where my father valued my mother. His love for her was obvious by his example to me and my brothers. From him I learned that men demonstrated their love by supporting and protecting women. But my marriage seemed to be quite the opposite, and it broke my heart.
As I repeatedly gave in to Hank, I felt less and less control over my own life. To him, my feelings did not matter. What could I be doing wrong? I wondered with confusion. I loved our home and was always excited to think that we were married and sharing our lives, but something was not right. Not wanting to worry, or bring hurt to my own family and my few close friends, I kept silent about my pain. Increasingly, I felt isolated and alone with the pain created by my husband's actions.
Even at church, there seemed to be no one I could turn to. The message I heard was that if I prayed enough, my marriage would change. But I prayed with all my heart, and it did not!
One particularly painful memory stands out in my mind from those long painful years. It started when I went to one of the doctor's in our community for a routine visit. To my horror, he sexually assaulted me while I was in his office. I went home, needing help and comfort, and began to share the encounter with my husband, expecting that he would do something to protect me. But instead, he flew into a "rage." I was shocked to discover that his 'rage" was not towards the doctor, but towards me! He accused me of "embellishing" the story, and "slanting the truth" in my direction. "You're the one who needs help!" he shouted.
Very soon afterwards, this doctor was charged with numerous counts of sexual misconduct, as a large number of women in our community came forward with the same story. When I wanted to go forward to receive help along with the other women, Hank told me no one would believe me because he would not support me in my story. He also told me that our own family would be disgraced by me if I tried. Fortunately, this doctor lost his license to ever practice again in that state because several women did speak out, but I suffered alone and kept my secret.
As our children were born, I found myself almost totally absorbed by their activities, and my husband's career. The years passed quickly, and our family became an important part of our community. Hank and I were both professionals in a "people helping" profession. We had a lovely home, enough money and a wonderful church. From the outside, we looked like the "picture perfect" family. Eventually, I chose to leave my profession so I could concentrate on what mattered the most to me: my family and providing support to my husband's career, which was very demanding on our family life.
According to my husband, our home was to be a place where only his "close male friends' could be entertained. I tried to develop friendships with couples at church and suggested we entertain them in our home, but he refused, saying he had nothing in common with them. I tried to plan dinners and small parties anyway, but he always had a good excuse for not allowing it, so I finally gave up. I realized that I did not matter to him.
His family was pleased with the home I had created for Hank to use to entertain these men. I told them his friends had low morals, and that their lifestyles included heavy drinking and filthy talk, but his family responded by telling me that he was a good witness to them, and that's what counted most. They reminded me that he had a "good church upbringing," and that he was highly respected in our community. I felt guilty for even attempting to get their support.
Through the years, I kept busy with my children's activities. And, I continued to look for ways to change myself in my effort to earn my husband's love and attention. I regularly browsed our Christian bookstore, and read almost every self help book that appeared on it's shelves. I attended classes on self-improvement, both at church and in our community. This helped to fill the hours I was alone, while Hank spent several evenings a week with his male friends, "talking business". But, it did nothing to help me gain his recognition, which I so desperately longed for. I wasn't the only one aching for his time and attention, however: my children missed their father's affection, as well. I knew they needed a father figure in their lives, so I attempted to fill that need with men from my family of origin.
Many sex addicts are caught because their wives or children find credit card receipts, over-hear illicit phone calls, or discover some other remnant of their sexual activities. But my husband was very skilled at hiding his double life. For many years he had a personal bank account, a PO Box, and credit cards in his name only, which went undetected by me. His public image had always been his highest concern, and he masterfully hid anything that might risk his exposure.
Sometime after our tenth anniversary, I became concerned when he suggested that we experiment with "sex toys," as well as with activities which I considered perverted sex. When I expressed my objection and began to question him, he put me down and shut me out. A short time later, I was devastated to learn that my only close female friend, the wife of my husband's partner, had been playing hostess for some of their "business nights," which included hard core porn films. She also told me that she and her husband regularly enjoyed watching porn together.
Still naïve and uneducated about sexual addiction, I grew more desperate than ever to change myself into the person I needed to be to get the physical and emotional love I deserved from my husband. And so I decided to have weight loss surgery. Since I had gained weight following the birth of our first child and had never been successful in taking it off, I hoped the surgery might be the answer. Unfortunately, as I began to lose weight following the surgery, I experienced complications. As a result, I became both anorexic and bulimic.
When my weight dropped to barely above 100 pounds, my doctors convinced me to have the surgery reversed to save my health. I received counseling following the second surgery, and with God's help, I literally threw away my scales. I was blessed with health, and total freedom from the eating disorder.
But my husband's addiction raged on. One day I discovered pornography under our mattress, and confronted him about it. "That's not mine," he lied. "A guy left it in my car and I didn't want the kids to see it, so I hid it here until I can give it back." He always had excuses and explained away any signs of addiction, never admitting any wrongdoing on his part.
And so the years passed, filled with endless repetitions of similar behavior, feelings, and incidents. As each of the children grew up and left home, I felt increasing isolation and loneliness.
Then, shortly after our last child was married and we became grandparents, my husband was offered an opportunity to advance his career in the town where our daughter lived. We decided to move there. I was thrilled to think about living close to her and her family. I also held hope that, by moving away from my husband's friends, we could begin a new life free from what I had finally realized was an addiction to porn. Yet I was still very naïve in my thinking. My husband immediately formed new friends to replace the old ones, and they, too, were into porn. Eventually, one of these men was arrested because illegal activities were a part of his addiction.
Living close to my daughter soon revealed that her marriage was in trouble, too. Although she had met her husband in church, she discovered he was unfaithful to her, and also into porn. In addition, both she and her child were being physically and emotionally abused. My dream of a happy new life was short lived.
Desperate to find help, I sought Christian counseling. My husband reluctantly agreed to go with me when I threatened divorce for the first time in all our years together. But it didn't take long to realize that his only motive was to convince his counselor that I was his only problem, and that he did not need to change. For him, counseling came to a quick and sudden end.
Thankfully, since moving and finding my new church, I had developed trust in my pastor's wife. I told her the truth about my marriage, and the pain I had lived with for years. Like my counselors, she believed me and became my advocate. My pastor, however, found it very difficult to grasp the truth. My husband played his "Double life" role very convincingly. I am grateful that my pastor cared deeply about those of us in his congregation, so he communicated with my counselor. In time, he supported me as well.
My church also had a Grief and Loss Care Group. I joined it, and the people in that circle became my new friends. The leader told me that what was shared in that room would not leave that room. I believed her and felt safe there. Little by little I shared my story and the pain in my life. With each small revelation of truth my trust grew.
As I slowly broke my silence about the reality of my life, the abuse in my marriage escalated into violence. Hank even stalked me when I was away from home. I am so grateful that by the time he took his abusive behavior that far, I had support in place. I had finally shared the truth with my own family, and from them, and all the others who supported me, I found the courage and strength I needed to finally separate from my husband.
My church became my place of strength. My pastor prayed with me, and asked God to reveal the truth about my marriage. As I stepped back and waited on Him, God did shine his light on the truth. And as He did, He stood with me as I faced each painful reality.
Part of the truth was revealed when one of my husband's close porn friends was arrested on charges of child pornography, and was sentenced to prison. In court, this man admitted he was bi-sexual. At that point, I knew my marriage was over, and I filed for divorce. Although my husband contested the divorce, I was determined to live a life free from the bondage of his sexual addiction.
Still clinging to God's promise that I had learned in childhood, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength," I stepped out onto the path He had planned for my life.
Now, five years later, I know for certain that God was in the decision I made that day. He has been faithful, and walked beside me every step of the way. Though loss brings pain and change, and change takes time, I now live a life I love. An exciting life filled with wonderful friends, and Christian ministry, and many opportunities to be of service to others who are hurting. And in it all, God has kept His promise: I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!